A bunion is a bump that develops at the base of the big toe. Also known as hallux valgus, it’s caused when the bones of the foot move out of place, causing the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint to project. The big toe begins to move sideways, overlapping the small toes (a related condition known as hammer toe). As a result, the joint can become inflamed and the area around the bunion often gets red, irritated, and sore.
Less commonly, when small bunions develop on the other side of the foot below the small toe, they’re called bunionettes.
What causes bunions?
The risk for developing bunions increases with age and is more common in women.1 Other risk factors include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Jobs that involve lengthy standing like retail work and teaching
- Faulty foot biomechanics like overpronation and plastic deformation
- High-heeled shoes
- Poorly-fitting shoes that are too small or narrow
- Shoes with pointed forefronts that constrict the toes
- Shoes with inadequate arch support
How bunions affect the body
Once formed, bunions don’t go away. Calluses that build up over them can be removed, but the bunion itself is permanent and usually gets worse over time. There are no exercises, splints or adjustments that will put the joints back into their former place.
Painful bunions can make walking difficult and finding shoes that accommodate the unnatural shape of feet with bunions can be challenging.
In addition, bunions are linked to serious conditions like bursitis, hammertoe and metatarsalgia. Bunions affect mobility and are associated with impaired gait patterns2, poor balance3, and falls in older adults4.
If a person has an existing bunion, sees one forming, or has risk factors, it’s important to get the feet assessed by a doctor. They’ll examine the structure of the feet.
A chiropractor can scan the feet to check for faulty biomechanics like flat feet and alignment issues that could be contributing to bunion formation. They can recommend custom orthotics to restore healthy stabilization and balance by supporting all three arches of the foot. "Bunions are a dead giveaway as to the need for custom orthotics", observes Dr. Kevin Wong, DC, owner of Orinda Chiropractic & Laser Center in Orinda, CA.
Most people choose to live with bunions and treat them with conservative methods like icing, pads and cushioning in the shoes, and wearing low-heeled, footwear with wide toe boxes. Custom orthotics are a non-invasive, easy-to-use and proven solution for increasing comfort and support.
In extreme cases where the bunions are interfering with everyday activities like walking, surgery is an option. However, bunion surgery can be costly, painful, and involves lengthy recovery. In addition, if the conditions that contributed to the bunion formation remain, such as foot instability, the bunion can return.
The importance of foot stabilization
A key factor in managing bunions is ensuring that the body’s foundation, the feet, are properly aligned and supported. This can help ensure that faulty foot biomechanics don’t lay the groundwork for bunion formation. Foot Levelers custom orthotics can restore the natural and healthy alignment of the feet to help bunions from worsening and new ones from developing.
“Custom-made foot orthotics worn in properly sized shoes will help most patients with bunions”, says Dr. Mark Charrette DC, owner of Charrette Chiropractic in Flower Mound, Texas. “It is especially important to provide support for the longitudinal and anterior transverse arches. The orthotics should have sufficient torsional rigidity to control pronation, yet be flexible enough to encourage first metatarsal mobility.”
Watch this video about bunions:
Learn more about bunions here.
2 Menz HB, Lord SR. “Gait instability in older people with hallux valgus.” Foot Ankle. 2005;26:483–489.
3 Menz HB, Lord SR. “The contribution of foot problems to mobility impairment and falls in community-dwelling older people”. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2001;49:1651–1656. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2001.49275.x.
4 Tinetti ME, Speechley M, Ginter SF N Engl J Med. "Risk factors for falls among elderly persons living in the community." 1988 Dec 29; 319(26):1701-7.